Jundokan So Honbu Dojo, 

Okinawa 2007 Goju Ryu Okinawa Karate Doh Jundokan South Africa


" After an absence of exactly 10 years, I decided to return to the home of Karate-Doh, Okinawa Japan – back to the historic home of Okinawa Karate-DMiyazato Ei'Ichi Hanshi correcting Buddy Govender - Jundokan 1997oh Goju Ryu, the Jundokan.  Situated in Asato which is a district of Okinawa, the Jundokan remains as it was when it first opened in 1957 by the late Ei’Ichi Miyazato Hanshi.  I was fortunate to have trained and graded to 4th Dan black belt (Yondan) directly under Miyazato Sensei when I was last at the Jundokan in 1997.  Every day Miyazato Hanshi and Yasuda Hanshi (10th Dan) was with me on the dojo floor, correcting my kata and explaining to me the history behind the kata, Goju Ryu in general and the Jundokan.  He was a living legend and to have that privilege of meeting and training directly under his hand was a treasure that cannot be matched again.  

I planned my trip such that there would be no other foreigners at the Jundokan except myself – I wanted ALL the ‘attention’!!  The Jundokan is now under the ownership of the Miyazato Yoshihiro Kancho the son of the late Miyazato Hanshi.  Kancho was present on the floor at all training sessions and was even besides me when it was time to clean the dojo floor!  These days most training sessions at the Jundokan are directed by Taira Masaji Sensei (8th Dan), Kinjo Tsuneo Sensei (8th Dan), Gima Tetsu Sensei (8th Dan), and on the floor at all sessions are Ganaha Hiroshi Sensei (7th Dan), Higa Kazuya Sensei (7th Dan) among others.  A rare sight these days is the appearance of Yasuda Tetsunosuke Shuseki Shihan (10th Dan), and, upon being called by Miyazato Kancho informing him that I am back at the dojo he was there in his gi the very next day waiting for me on the floor – he is now 82 years old!  An honour that I was immensely proud of.

Yasuda Hanshi and Buddy Govender Jundokan 2007The Jundokan is a living museum of Karate-Doh spirit.  This is the very floor and dojo that a young Higaonna Morio Sensei (IOGKF) perfected his kata, that Miyazato Ei’Ichi Hanshi conducted the very first Goju Ryu classes after the closure of Miyagi Chojun Sensei’s ‘garden dojo’, and the very floor that many local and foreign students performed kata over and over again in order to gain insights into the wonderful world of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Doh.

After an initial meeting with Miyazato Kancho in his office, I was informed that the seniors were very happy to see me again but cannot guarantee that I would be offered a grading as it had been 10 years since they last saw me!  I explained to them that the reason I could not come again was purely financial and that the South African currency does not hold strong against the US dollar BUT assured them that my training did not falter for a moment.  However, I had to prove this to the seniors, and prove it on the floor – which I would have expected nothing less!  I would like at the outset to make a point of stating that my reason for going back to Okinawa had nothing to do with acquiring any grading – it was purely for training and restoring ‘old’ bonds – anything else would be a bonus.

The Jundokan is open for training from the afternoon till late evening.  Most students arrive at about 6pm and hit the makiwara or go over their kata on their own till 8pm when Taira Sensei calls for everybody to get together as a class.  For an hour we go through all the kata from Gekisai dai Ichi through to Superimpei – pausing between kata to explain and go over pertinent sections or moves.  This goes on till about 9pm and thereafter the students either work again on their own or in pairs till about 10.30pm !

The first night of training was conducted by Gima Sensei in the absence of Taira Sensei.  I could see that particular attention was going to be paid to me – exactly what I wanted.  I was asked to perform Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin and Sanseru kata’s, and afterwards I could see the positive facial expressions on all the sensei present.  However, as I had expected there were comments on the timing of certain sequences and the distribution of weight and power of various techniques – good constructive criticism.  We then proceeded to practice kake’ (pushing hands) and lots of ude tanren (arm conditioning). At about 10.00pm we then cleaned the dojo floor and headed for a well earned shower Got back to my apartment, which was just around the corner from the Jundokan, at about 11pm!  I stayed at the excellent Refine Apartment in Asato.  Small but extremely well equipped.  Glenn McIIvride, who is the assistant manager – overseas at the Jundokan kindly organised my accommodation.  He has been training at the Jundokan for about 12 years and now lives in Okinawa .  I am grateful for his assistance in organising the accommodation and being instrumental in sorting out various things to ensure that my trip was a successful one.

The next day, I went down to the dojo early and had a great one-on-one session with Higa Kazuya san (7th Dan) and focused on Sesan, Shisochin and Kururunfa.  Higa Sensei's kata is very sharp and focused.  He was extremely happy with my "fighting spirit" and "good strong kata base".  This was a strong, good session with Higa Sensei and during the course of my stay, including the day of my Godan grading; Higa Sensei was always very encouraging.

The students of the Jundokan train everyday for at least 3 hours with such vigour, enthusiasm and motivation.  Taira Sensei, in my opinion, is a living Samurai.  Watching him perform the Gekisai Kata is truly amazing and inspiring.  He attacks the kata as if he is in a battle a Samurai in full battle-cry!  His knowledge of bunkai is second to non in the world!  He previously worked in the elite division of the police force and has practiced his Goju Ryu with realism, in and out the dojo.

I was informed by Miyazato Kancho that I would "test" on Saturday and that I had to prepare.  Yasuda Hanshi came down for a few days prior to the grading and ‘drilled’ me on the grading requirement over and over again.  On one of the days he picked me up at lunch time and took to me to a wonderful restaurant just outside of Naha City . Kinjo Sensei joined us for an excellent lunch. Thereafter Yasuda Sensei insisted that he buys my 1 year old son, Saif, a couple of outfits from the nearby store.  Yasuda is a wonderful, kind man who explained to me on the drive back to Naha that his training is now focused on "preparation to die bravely like a Samurai."  I found that attitude to be overwhelming and so profound. I am proud to have been taught and befriended by such a man.

The grading was to be conducted after a 2 hour training session for Black Belts (Yudansha) on the Saturday afternoon.  There were about 14 Black Belts of various grades in attendance and on the grading panel sat Yasuda Hanshi, Gima Sensei and Miyazato Kancho.  I was asked to perform Tensho kata, followed by Shisochin and Sepai kata.  Without any fanfare the grading was over with the formal bows.  Miyazato Sensei then informed me that we will all be meeting at Taira Sensei restaurant in Kokusai Dori for a celebration -  I had been promoted to Godan (5th Dan)!  What a wonderful gesture, they had organised platter of snacks, food and lots of drinks and of course ice tea for me!  During the celebrations, out came the Karaoke machine and Miyazato Kancho sang the first song followed by Kinjo Sensei and then Miyazato Kancho and his wife.  Then it was my turn, which after all those that sang before me, I could not refuse.  I must profess that I did not let the house down and did a fair rendition of Robbie Williams "Feel" which is my wife, Farhana, favourite song.

During my stay I was fortunate to meet with a wonderful couple from Australia , Helmut and Miriam Leitner.  Helmut, an ex-Austrian, was training with Higaonna Morio Sensei (IOGKF) at his dojo just down the road from our apartment. Miriam was an ex-Zimbabwean, so it was good to have the company of another Southern African.  During the day we travel all around Okinawa and in the evening went our separate ways in search of a common goal, Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-Doh.  The next day we would compare notes on what the training was at the respective dojo the night before.  We have now become firm family friends and look forward to the day both Helmut and Miriam visit my home country and enjoy our hospitality.  Helmut was kind enough to invite me to travel with them to the most Northern point of Okinawa and then drive back down to Naha stopping off at all the various historic sites.  A day that will remain with us forever.  Helmut was 60 years old but had a body and strength that belied his age.  The day I left Okinawa , Miriam cooked all my favourite food and had me over for a superb lunch. I am grateful to have met such a wonderful couple that I can proudly call family.

My stay at the Jundokan was an excellent one.  The night before I left Okinawa , Taira Sensei came up to me before the class and said that as it was my last class, "tonight we check your Goju Ryu Karate-Doh". Surrounded by a number of senior grades, I was asked to perform all the Goju Ryu Kata, and after each one it was scrutinised and commented on.  At the end of that session I was drenched with perspiration but it was a truly magical session.  Afterwards Miyazato Kancho, Taira Sensei and all the other seniors and students wished me well and said that they look forward to seeing me again next year (the commemoration of Miyazato Hanshi’s 10th anniversary of his passing).  I left with all my bonds and ties to the Jundokan further strengthened and endorsed.  I thanked all the seniors and students for their "help" and assistance and took my leave.

I was now keen to get back to my family, my home, my friends, my dojo and my students.